Trip to Furrin Parts!

My apologies, Dear Reader, for not posting anything for several months. Life has been rather hectic for several reasons. A family illness and bereavement complicated December, and then I was somewhat busy during January getting organised for a trip to ‘furrin parts’, which took place in February.

The trip was to NEW ZEALAND – nothing like going the whole hog if you are planning a trip, is there? If you are flying the world you might as well fly all the way to the other side!

In actual fact, it was partly holiday and partly work, believe it or not. The main reason for the exercise was to visit Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington (the name means “The People’s Treasure Box” in Maori – isn’t that a lovely name for a museum?) They have in their collection the OTHER Captain Cook waistcoat, also stitched by Elizabeth Cook. This one was made earlier (there’s a cliché in there somewhere…), probably in the early or mid-1770s, and was actually worn by James. I examined it in 2014 when I visited NZ for the first time, but on that visit I was mainly looking at the size and construction of the waistcoat, to give me some ideas for the construction of the unfinished Sydney waistcoat. This time I wanted a good look at the embroidery pattern, as I am planning to make a replica of this waistcoat as well. It seems a bit silly to make replicas of two of Elizabeth Cook’s oeuvres (Sydney Waistcoat and Map Sampler) but not the third, after all.

So I spent a day in the back rooms tracing the embroidery and examining the details of fabric, stitching etc. And taking LOTS of photographs. It was great to get really close to the piece, as well as to see Sara Guthrie again, who helped me last time. I also met Claire Regnault (Senior Curator) properly, having corresponded by email a lot in setting the visit up.

They were also able to show me a map sampler they had bought from Witney Antiques some years ago. It is a double hemisphere World Map, in monochrome stitching on linen, with images representing the four continents in the corners, and a compass rose in the middle at the bottom. The interesting aspect of this was how similar the design was to Elizabeth Cook’s ‘Western Hemisphere’ sampler. The western half of their sampler was almost identical, which supports an idea I have had for a while that Elizabeth used a printed fabric pattern. These were just coming in during the late 18th century.

It also potentially gives me another project to think about! I have been wondering for a while about stitching the ‘missing’ half of Elizabeth’s map. Now I have a design to work with….. So I traced the Eastern Hemisphere and the four continents as well – at least as best I could through the glass of the frame. That one will go on my ‘future project’ list now.

The other ‘work’ part of the Wellington stage was a lecture to the Friends of Te Papa Museum, about replicating Elizabeth Cook’s embroidery. That was a great success: they had about 100 visitors, and several non-members came who joined afterwards. They all enjoyed my talk, as well as examining the Sydney waistcoat and Map Sampler, which I took with me, along with some of my other more portable pieces. Claire and Sara brought out their waistcoat and the map sampler as well for folks to see. Lots of interest in all of it.

Chris had managed to organise to spend the day at Basin Reserve, Wellington’s main cricket ground, looking at the museum archives there and talking Cricket with the Museum director. Altogether a great day for both of us. Then he came to the museum for my lecture.

After that we had a couple of days in Wellington, exploring Zealandia again, and the Botanic Gardens. Zealandia is an amazing nature reserve, in the city itself, which is trying to recreate the original NZ bush as much as possible. It has tuatara, kiwis, kakas, takahe, and all sorts of other NZ fauna and flora. As well as an electric scooter to borrow! Well worth a visit if you are ever over that way. (Now there’s a throwaway line!)
After that we hired a car and spent a week driving up the east coast of the North Island, visiting Napier, Gisborne, Te Urewera National Park, and Waieko Gorge. A lovely trip, with some fantastic scenery. We ended up in Auckland, to fly back via Hong Kong.

Auckland was also back to ‘work’, though the trip certainly didn’t really feel like work at all, any of it! Elizabeth Ridder, the President of the Friends of Te Papa, had passed on to me a query she had received asking if I was going to Auckland at all, since the lady concerned couldn’t get to Wellington for my talk. I sent an email back to say I was flying from Auckland on Sunday 19th and staying at the airport hotel on the Saturday night, if she wanted to meet up.

‘Oh, great!’ came the message back, ‘That’s the day of our meeting!’ So on Saturday 18th I gave another talk (same one, in fact) to Auckland Embroiderers Guild. They were a lovely group of ladies, and my talk was very well received. They also had several extra visitors who had managed to get there for my talk – not bad given we set it up with about 3 weeks notice!

I explained why I was in NZ at both Wellington and Auckland, of course, and everyone was very interested. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that in 2019-2020 it is the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage in the HMB Endeavour. I know various folks are planning celebrations in both NZ and Australia, and I’ve been hoping that I might be able to get involved in some way. Everyone we spoke to was very keen, so hopefully I’ll be able to set something up. I should have the Te Papa waistcoat replica done by then, and possibly the Map Sampler’s ‘other half’ as well.

So it has been a fantastic visit, a super holiday as well as a very successful trip from a work point of view. On the way back we spent a couple of nights in Hong Kong, which gave me time to explore the fabric district in Sham Shui Po, and buy some silks. At silly prices compared with the UK: £6-8 a yard, anyone? For pure silk………

Just to cap the trip off, we got back to the UK on Wednesday 22nd – just in time for Storm Doris on the 23rd! The weather was a bit of a shock after 25 degrees down under…… I do gather we missed snow, however (smug grin).

The photos show a detail of the Te Papa Waistcoat, the eastern half of their map sampler, a view across the lake at Zealandia, a waterfall in Te Urewera Park, and Chris and I with the statue of Captain Cook at Gisborne, on Poverty Bay, which is where Cook first landed in NZ.

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